Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Troggs: Live In Ossett


The Troggs Live at ‘Woburn House’
Ossett, West Yorkshire, 1987

It’s 1966. Heather is seventeen. She works in the print-factory packing department where she fancies the shy apprentice, despite his acne. But more than that, she has a fixation with Reg Presley. It’s something to do with the pudding-bowl fringe, something to do with the puppy-fat, but mostly it’s to do with the way he stands, mike in hand, with candy-striped legs splayed. ‘Twenty-one years. Phew!’ A muted Dorset accent whistled through clean white teeth. ‘TWENTY-ONE YEARS!’ like even he can’t believe it’s been that l-o-n-g. White jacket, black shirt, white sneakers, black pants, centre-parting – but still the puppy-fat, still the splay-leg stance like an inverted y-chromosome. ‘D’YER LIKE SIXTIES MUSIC?’ yells Presley. ‘NO’ retorts a smart-arse in the audience. ‘KILL! KILL!! KILL!!!’ he snarls, brandishing the mike-stand like an armalite. Heather bought the albums ‘From Nowhere… The Troggs’ (Fontana TL5355, July 1966) and ‘Trogglodynamite’ (Page One POL001, February 1967). Played them on her Dansette till her Mum confiscated the stylus. She remembers young comedian Ted Rodgers on ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’ spoofing their second hit “With A Girl Like You” as ‘I’d like, to send my wife, to Whipsnade Zoo’, she pretended to be offended, but secretly thought it was a bit of a giggle. But most of all she loved “I Can’t Control Myself”, the third (and last) of their Top 3 singles, opening up with its anguished hyper-kinetic howl ‘Oh No!’ and fading out into an extended tantrum-scream of impure teenage lust, dumber and truer than Punk. Jonathan King arrogantly jibed that the group wouldn’t survive the year out, and bet a champagne supper on it. He had to honour that bet when the hits kept coming. She thinks those tracks still sound good, even here in tonight’s immaculately plush supper-club ambience. Anyway, she prefers the lush soft-core romance of “Anyway That You Want Me” to the switchblade amped-up R&B attack of “Louie Louie” or “Walking The Dog” which someone says sounds raunchy enough to be the Feelgood’s, or maybe the Prowlers. And she smiles at “Strange Movie”, the hard-core ‘dirty’ song she understands better now than she did then, all that skinflick mate-trade grunt-grunt-grunting. Seems like so long ago since she settled for the print apprentice, and married him. Not that it’s bad, because it’s not. Just that there’s still something there about Reg that’s a bit special. Later, she’ll find it strange that the Troggs original version of “Love Is All Around” only peaked at no.5, while the Wet Wet Wet reboot, with little tinkering, sits at no.1 for something like fifteen weeks. It seems unfair. Probably something to do with the 1994 movie ‘Four Weddings And A Funeral’. Not that Reg cares. He came out of it fine. Tonight, she thinks he looks… nice, too, but can’t recognise the bass-lead-drums behind him – can that really be drummer Ronnie Bond? Naw. She likes the way Reg intros “The Yella In Me”, the neglected first Troggs single (‘B’-side of Reg’s song “Lost Girl”). Recalls how she stayed up late until 03:00am on the promise of a Luxembourg play, then fell asleep and missed it. But the intro to “Wild Thing” is still neolithic, less a song than a primal riff, Chip Taylor’s manic minimalist paean to hyper-sexual frustration – which has been covered by Jimi Hendrix, and the Muppets too, but THIS is THE ORIGINAL. And it is. Heather enjoyed tonight, on balance. As she retrieves her coat, she thinks she might come back next Saturday. The Searchers are here. She always had a soft spot for Mike Pender’s smile…

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